Richards wants to make history again

DETERMINED: Henry Cowling
DETERMINED: Henry Cowling

Graham Richards is hoping to write one more piece of history in his last game at Sudbury Rugby Club on Saturday — a season-defining promotion play-off (3pm).

Sudbury’s director of rugby is leaving the club after four successful years, and aims to bring down the curtain on a high note with victory against Hammersmith and Fulham, and promotion to London League Division One North.

Sudbury finished runners-up behind Saffron Walden in Division Two North East on 87 points, while Hammersmith and Fulham were second in Division Two North West behind Fullerians, on 84 points, Sudbury’s better points tally giving them home advantage in the play-off.

“It’s a one game season,” said Richards. “It’s favourable to be at home. It’s an advantage, but it’s not a given, and they are going to come here very determined.”

Richards has had the opposition watched, when they lost 24-23 in what was effectively the title game at Fullerians at the beginning of April, and Sudbury coach and analyst Tiger Minter was at Welwyn on Saturday, where Hammersmith and Fulham won 46-21.

Sudbury clinched a 47-15 home victory over Rochford Hundred on Saturday, despite a stuttering start, something Richards is determined will not happen again in the play-off.

“It was a bit rabbit in the headlights,” he said, “but then we settled down. I’m disappointed that we conceded two late tries through lapses of concentration. That’s not good enough if we are going to succeed. We can’t afford to do that next Saturday.

“I don’t usually dwell on what’s happened on the pitch in the after-match talk, but today I did.”

So to lift the pressure a little, Sudbury trained for an hour on Tuesday, and then adjourned to The Brook. “We had a beer and a chat and got the guys to relax as they were a bit uptight at the start against Rochford.

“It’s important they get their heads round the fact that this is not about ability any more. It’s mental. Our boys are good enough players, they have proved that,” said Richards.

“This week I’ve got to sit down with the guys who are coaching with me – Dick Sumner and Barney Excell – and decide what’s the best line-up. We’re allowed 19 players for this game.”

Chris Lewis, who pulled out an hour before kick-off against Rochford with an ear infection, is expected to be fit, and Frazer Beckett is available, increasing the pressure of competition for places.

“It’s exciting and brilliant that we have given the club a home tie,” said Richards. “If we can win, that will be four teams from Sudbury all promoted in the last 12 months – AFC, the cricket club, the ladies’ hockey team and us. It’s great for the town.”

But he knows Saturday will be tough. Sudbury have won 10 and lost one of their regular season home games, Hammersmith and Fulham have won nine, drawn one and lost one of their away games.

n If the scores are level at 80 minutes, two 10-minute periods of extra-time will be played. If the scores are still level, the team scoring more tries wins. Failing that, count-back on successful kicks. If the score is still level, victory goes to the away side.

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